Keeping his promise to weed out the opioid crisis, President Donald Trump on Aug. 10, 2017, declared it a national emergency, saying the epidemic is a “serious problem the likes of which we have never had.” Trump’s surprise announcement came just over a week after a White House panel had urged the president to declare a national emergency to fight the opioid epidemic. With an “emergency” tag to the crisis, states and federal agencies would now have more resources and power to deal with the menace afflicting the country.
“The opioid crisis is an emergency, and I am saying, officially, right now, it is an emergency. It’s a national emergency. We’re going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money on the opioid crisis. It is a serious problem the likes of which we have never had,” the president said at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
In a statement released late on the same day, the White House said that acting on the recommendations of the presidential commission on opioid crisis, President Trump had directed his Administration to treat the epidemic as an emergency and take urgent measures to control it.
The White House commission led by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in its report had said that the opioid crisis is responsible for killing as many people as the 9/11 terrorist attacks every three weeks. Among other recommendations, the commission had asked the government to allow a waiver to all 50 states to overcome treatment barriers caused due to exclusion of the federal Institutes for Mental Diseases (IMD) from the Medicaid Program.
Notably, the announcement by Trump has come only two days after Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price had denied the possibility of an opioid emergency, saying that the government had enough resources to address the crisis even without declaring an emergency.
Meanwhile, Christie has lauded the president’s decision. In a written statement, he showed confidence in president’s commitment to address the opioid problem aggressively and take desperate measures to help families across the country. Fighting opioid abuse was one of the main agendas of Trump during his 2016 campaign for presidential elections. He is particularly aggressive with the idea in states worst affected by prescription drug abuse.
The way forward
With the president declaring a national emergency on opioids, it will help thousands of Americans in existing facilities in all 50 states get access to treatment. Moreover, as the commission had recommended, the people battling substance abuse problems are also expecting an expansion in the access to Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT). MAT has proven to decrease overdose deaths, reduce the use of heroin, retain persons in treatment and prevent transmission of infectious disease.
While the move by the government deserves praise, communities can join the fight against opioid abuse by lending support to patients and helping them get right medical help. Remember that opioid addiction can be treated with timely medical intervention. If a person is grappling with an addiction to opioids, he/she should immediately seek professional help from a reputed rehab center.
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